While Cambodia has achieved impressive growth over past two decades, in order to sustain growth that is inclusive, equitable, environmental conscious, Cambodia needs to focus on improving its good governance system. Local governments have been proven to be a strong interface between the central Government and local communities. Their proximity to people can ensure responsive service delivery, accountability and the inclusion of vulnerable group including women, youth, elderly, and persons with disabilities.
The decentralization reforms in Cambodia which began in the 1990s aimed to shift powers, decision making, and service delivery responsibility from the central Government to local authorities that are closer to people, are elected by and are more accountable to their constituencies. Despite the great achievements made so far, Cambodia remains an “unfinished agenda”. The organizational and individual capacities of local councils and councilors to deliver services and to meaningfully interact and engage local people need further improvement. At the same time, local citizens also need to be more aware of their rights, more engaged and able to demand accountability from their local government.
On the capacity development, as indicated in the 3 Year-Implementation Plan Phase III (IP3-III), many policies and projects have been implemented. A recent assessment however suggests that, despite huge financial investment, the modality which relies heavily on training has not been effective and that a more ‘learning by doing’ or ‘on-the-job-training’ approach should be used. This suggests the need for more functional assignment, together with necessary resources. On citizen engagement, the Social Accountability Framework has been initiated since 2014 using specific tools and process to promote citizen engagement in specific local service delivery, namely, primary school, health center and commune services. However, it is still rural focused and its impact is yet to be proven, although at the process and out-put level, specific positive elements have been proven and ready for replication. NCDD has also adopted a new Communication Strategy to ensure a more effective outreach to local citizens and other stakeholders through various means, including social media and other modern ICT technologies. The Strategy however still needs to be operationalized and its impact measured.
In term of service delivery, solid waste management (SWM) has been consistently identified as one of the main challenges.
In 2015 RGC decided to transfer SWM service delivery function from the Ministry of Environment (MoE) to District and Municipality (DM). While this is a positive move, existing assessment suggests that the implementation of the policy has been partial and uneven. The roles and responsibilities of DM versus other stakeholders still need clarification, enforcement of specific rules (such as fine) is still pending, the issue of funding transfer and budget management at the sub-national level keep coming up, and more importantly, it is unclear how local citizens should be engaged in an urban setting, with relation to urban-focused services such as SWM.
UNDP also has a growing portfolio of work related to local service delivery – in solid waste, in social housing, local economic development – among other areas. Bring experiences from these works into efforts to support the de-concentration and decentralization agenda will be useful in sharpening local governance effectiveness and supporting service improvement. UNDP initiatives have trialed a number of service consultation and feedback devices and promoted the enabling function of local governments to address local service needs. A particularly noteworthy area is that of solid waste management (SWM), where UNDP has engaged with central government and with the managements of Special Economic Zones to find creative solutions, and this might be transferred to local governments, and used as an exemplar for the governance of other local services. SWM is a source of particular national and local concerns in Cambodia.
KEY EXPECTED RESULTS
The overall objective of the project is to continue improving the capacity of local administrations and citizen engagement in selected areas through the introduction and implementation of certain local service delivery models which reflect local needs, local initiatives, key national policies and regulations and which can be up-scaled and used as evidence for further policy discussion.
In line with the overall objective, the project proposes to achieve three related outputs:
Output 1 – Enhance the local service delivery capacity of District/Municipality and Commune/Sangkat administrations, with a focus on solid waste management.
Output 2 – Citizen engagement and accountability: Local citizens, including vulnerable groups, will be better informed and engaged in the planning and execution of the service delivery and more able in demanding more accountability from responsible agencies and concerned private sectors.
Output 3 – Advocacy and communication: Relevant national level agencies will be engaged, informed and gradually own the initiative and use the evidence produced for future upscaling and discussion at policy level. The key national agencies include the MoI, NCDD-S, MoE, MEF, and ASAC.
· A 3-day training on “Generic Roles of Municipality and District Administration in a Democratic Manner” was conducted at the District and Municipality level. This training included modules on the universal principles of good governance and social accountability, understanding democratic development in Cambodia, and planning and monitoring local development projects using a results-based approach.
· A national consultant was signed on to the project to conduct a baseline survey, which will inform both project results and the development of an innovative SDG Local and Urban Governance Dashboard cloud-computing tool. This dashboard will be shared with local governments to gain a comprehensive picture of their current service delivery capacities and public perceptions of their work.